Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Exploring bits and pieces of Printhead and Office XP

Zatni Arbi, Columnist, Jakarta,

Three weeks ago, I wrote here about what I thought was good news. I wrote that, in its latest printers, HP finally separated the printhead from the ink tank. This design, I said, was supposed to reduce the cost of ink cartridges, although upon further review that may not be the case.

We never had any idea what the actual cost of making the ink and putting it in the tank was anyway. So, if the printer makers -- Canon, Epson, HP or Lexmark -- told us that the price was a bit lower now that the cartridge no longer included the printhead, it might have been the case that the price of the ink alone had been increased and replacing the printhead might prove to cost us more.

A reader reminded me that in some cases, it would actually be better to have the printhead integrated in the ink cartridge. Three years ago, he said, he bought an inkjet printer that already had a separate printhead. When the printer had not been used for some time, the ink dried up and clogged the printhead. He was then adviced by the dealer to buy a new printer rather than having the printhead replaced. So, as he pointed out -- and I agree with him in this case, it would have been cheaper to have the printhead incorporated in the cartridge after all. He eventually bought himself a new printer with such a design, and he has been very happy ever since.

However, fortunately, the Internet is chockful of hints and tips from experts as well as end users who have shared the same experience. There are discussion groups on this issue as well. If you subscribe to Fred Langa's bulletins (, you will be able to read suggestions from his readers as to how to keep the cartridges and the printhead working after being not in use for a long time.

A search in Google would also return hundreds of pages containing info on printhead cleaning. Most of them are promotion of third-party cleaners, of course, but some contain really practical tips for cleaning clogged cartridges or printheads. Of course, there is a risk that you may fail and even ruin your printer in the process. But, then again, if you have already decided to junk it, you will not have much to lose anyway.

* Entering Office XP

Last week, I officially upgraded from Microsoft Office 2000 to Office XP, believing that the new features in the latter would help me improve my productivity and let me work faster. I also thought that I was ready to learn new things that this suite offers. As you must already know, one of the most important Office XP features is the inclusion of customizable Smart Tags, and I was eager to be able to use this feature to enrich the way I work. However, the learning curve seemed to be a bit steeper than I had anticipated. At this point, I am still trying to solve some mundane problems that emerged right after I installed the newer Office.

For instance, each time I exit from Word XP, the system will think the program has crashed, ask me whether I want to send a report to Microsoft and tells me that it is trying to recover my document. Then, without giving me any choice, Word XP will load again with a blank document. I still cannot figure out why this always happens.

I also have to correct the setting of the new Outlook. While I like its Search facility better, it did not give me my old address book automatically. So, for the time being I have to find my intended recipient's e-mail in the Inbox first, click on the Reply button and then write her my new message.

Also, the Smart Tag icon, which appears after a Cut and Paste operation, frequently hides the text underneath it. I still need some time to learn how to handle this --_or, rather, get used to it. At any rate, the tag will automatically disappear if I simply ignore it and keep working.

There is a more serious problem, though. One of my clients still uses Lotus WordPro at her office, and she prefers to receive my files in WordPro file format. I never felt comfortable using the editing tools available in WordPro, so what I usually did was prepare the documents in Word 2000 and then use Copy and Paste to create the WordPro file. After I upgraded to Word XP, WordPro never fails to bomb each time I paste the text from Word XP, even when I have saved the Word file in the RTF format. Now I realize I should have somehow kept the Word 2000 on my computer.

There are quite a few other things that Word XP handles differently from Word 2000. My advice is, if you do not normally have a lot of fun learning the new and more sophisticated features, it will be more sensible that you stick to Word 2000. Although far less sophisticated, I find Office 2000 to be far cleaner and, of course, more predictable.

And, just as I was starting to learn Office XP and planning to download the patches, Microsoft has already notified its beta testers that the beta version of Office 11 is already in the pipeline. Although the upcoming version was announced in June, Microsoft has not revealed much information about its new features. However, analysts believe it will incorporate Microsoft .NET features, which will allow users to work with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. in yet very different ways. The final product is expected to be launched in the middle of next year. That is really what makes the technology so exciting, is it not?